Jewish-Muslim initiative tackles racism

From left, Bruce Atkinson, Saara Sabbagh, Jennifer Huppert, Richard Wynne, Rohini Kappadath, general manager of the Immigration Museum, and Ahmet Keskin.

LAUNCHING a Jewish-Muslim initiative to train people to react effectively, yet safely when they witness antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks, Victoria’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Richard Wynne condemned attacks on Jews, Muslims and any minorities “based on their faith and their beliefs”.

Wynne was speaking at the Immigration Museum on December 10 at the launch of Showing Up: Bystander Intervention Program, a community initiative in which the state government, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, and two Muslim associations, the Australian Intercultural Society and Benevolence Australia, are partnering to teach safe ways not to be a passive bystander to a hate attack.

Referring to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s 2018 antisemitism report, Wynne condemned antisemitic attacks, including vandalism, emails, phone calls and posters, and also condemned a rise in attacks on Muslim women in faith-related garb.

He said “racism, in which Islamophobia and antisemitism are rooted, harms individuals and societies and is deeply, deeply corrosive at every level”.

Opposition MLC Bruce Atkinson, president of the Legislative Council, said it is no longer acceptable to expect victims of racism to be stalwart about it, rather the goal should be to ensure “racism is abolished, is eradicated … that every single person can actually contribute to the best of their personal ability … because Victoria is the richer and the stronger for that contribution”.

JCCV president Jennifer Huppert quoted Hillel, the Sage, “who said ‘treat others as you would have them treat you'”, describing his words as “a main tenet of Judaism … this program is based on that tenet. What we want is to make sure that all people in Victoria are treated with the respect that they deserve … The aim of this program is to train people to give them the tools to ensure that that occurs.”

Saara Sabbagh, director of Benevolence Australia, a Muslim organisation, said Muslim tradition teaches “none of us can be bystanders” when injustices occur.

Ahmet Keskin, executive director of Muslim group, Australian Intercultural Society, said, “Islamophobia and antisemitism are serious issues for many members of the community across Victoria [but] the majority of us, if faced with an antisemitic or Islamophobic incident, wouldn’t know what to do.”

The program began with training workshops at the Immigration Museum, and further sessions will be held early next year at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre at Victoria University, Darebin City Council and the Islamic Museum of Australia.

PETER KOHN